SAN FRANCISCO — Random House Inc. has agreed to stop distributing copies of a philosophical memoir by Bryan Magee that accuses a noted lecturer, author and one-time confidant of Bertrand Russell of being a CIA operative.
In “Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper,” first published in the United States in 1998, Magee says Ralph Schoenman was a CIA operative planted to spy on Russell, a noted 1960s opponent of the Vietnam War.
He also called Schoenman “appallingly sinister” and “calculated and manipulative,” according to court documents.
“He said I was like an evil dwarf out of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle,” Schoenman said Tuesday. “At 5-11, I’m probably the largest dwarf on record.
“The passages ... were clearly intended to reinvent and incite prejudice and to create a climate of distrust of me and my relationship with Russell. This was a full-board attempt at character assassination and it had to be stopped,” he said.
The settlement was reached with Random House May 15, according to Schoenman’s lawyer, Adam Belsky.
“We are pleased that we’ve been able to resolve our differences,” said Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum, who added he was unfamiliar with the details of the settlement.
The publisher agreed to stop distributing any copies of the book containing references to Schoenman and agreed to replace original editions in more than 700 universities and libraries with the new version published in January 2000.
“This settlement has not only made certain that future editions of the book will now be accurate, but, by providing corrected editions to all libraries, ensures that the historical record will be corrected as well,” Belsky said.
Additional settlement terms were undisclosed because of a confidentiality agreement.
Magee’s book was originally published in England in 1997 by Orion Publishing Co. In August 1999, Schoenman, who said he’s never spoken to Magee, sued for libel after a friend alerted him to the offending passages.
”(Magee) made no effort to contact me before, during or after the publication of the book,” said Schoenman, who was a close friend and colleague of Russell between 1960 and 1968.
That case was settled in October 1999 after the author and the publisher acknowledged the statements about Schoenman were false and apologized for any damage they may have caused his reputation, according to court documents. They also agreed to pay Schoenman’s legal fees and $95,000 in damages.
At about the same time, Random House was in the process of publishing the book in the United States.